In my last column, I introduced a shocking concept that the client whose business you are trying to gain is human.
That is good news. Very good news,
Because he is human, he has feelings, and he operates on instinct and emotion – and that is where you have your competitive edge.
As Gartner Research Fellow Simon Hayward points out, “Most products and services are now good enough to serve the majority of users most of the time. With all things being equal, it is the emotional connection that makes one system stand out from the others. This is why the emotion quotient can be more powerful than price or technical comparisons.”
Emotions have the same power in B2B as in B2C. We act upon emotions. “Validate with intellect” is as applicable. After all the data, analytics, price quotes, case histories, and whatever you squeeze into your presentation, what ultimately counts is how he perceives you and your company, how he feels about you and your company, how he connects with you and your company.
In the last column, I included the Harvard Business Review Maslow’s Hierarchy for Business Decisions. The upper two tiers, where decisions are finalized, rest on emotional issues.
Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winning behavioral psychologist, in his epic opus, Think, Fast and Slow, explains why emotions dominate.
Our brains are lazy. Kahneman identifies two cognitive biases for the way we think.
System 1 – Cognitive Fluency or Cognitive Ease is the Think Fast mode. Think Fast is the everyday thinking that takes place automatically, without much having to be done to support it. It is characterized by rapidity, emotionality, stereotypes, and the unconscious mind. Tasks like “What is 2 + 2?” or “Where does the sun rise?” are handled by this mode, because they do not require much contemplation.
Think Fast is fast, instinctive, emotional. It is the lazy brain at work.
System 2 – Cognitive Strain is the Think Slow mode. Think Slow is consciously guided thinking, more deliberative and logical; it is associated with a large amount of effort for the human brain and proceeds slowly. It is characterized by exertion, logic, calculation, and the conscious mind. The process discomforts us. It is not enjoyable and we seek to avoid it. It leads us to be more suspicious and vigilant.
Our brain opts for the Think Fast mode. Relying on emotions, instinct, feelings. Decisions are quick. As Kahneman points out, this has enormous ramifications in decision-making both on the high corporate level and the personal level at home.
Think Fast is the CEO’s shortcut that cuts through your thoroughly prepared presentation. As you talk and talk and talk, the CEO is in the Think Fast mode, calculating how he feels about you, relying on instinct.
So, what do you need to do to get him to feel comfortable with you? Do a standup comedy routine? Show him the dance moves you do at chasunos? You could try that. Perhaps even bring in a letter from your mother about how adorable you were as a baby. But there is a better way.
You could have him feeling comfortable with you and your company, already favoring your company even before you walk through the door. Unless you mess up your presentation, the favorable decision could have already been decided in his mind.
As I said, he is human. So, humanize your company through your B2B advertising.
That is what companies like IBM, Microsoft, Google, Cisco, Salesforce and others are doing. They have moved away from faceless, cold, fact-driven advertising to give their companies heart and soul. They do so by displaying human empathy. They deep dive into the minds of their target audience to understand what they are truly thinking, what they really want.
Phillips Electronics wanted to tell the world that it has moved into the healthcare field, creating advanced medical instruments. It could have run advertising going into exacting detail about the exacting specifications of its instruments. It could have mesmerized its audience with research data delivered through impressive scientific language.
Could have. But Phillips did not follow that expected strategy.
Instead, Phillips did a video about a fisherman from Iceland, The Long Night. The video followed him as he left the shore and sailed the frigid waters through the long night. Over the video, you heard him speak about the life of an Icelandic fisherman, outside in the bitterly cold ocean air, the grueling long hours through the night, the insomnia that even at home robs him of sleep and affects his health. The video followed him as he dropped and hauled in his nets. It followed him the night his poor health overtook him and he collapsed on his boat. He was rescued by a medevac helicopter at sea.
The video was a dramatization of a true experience. The voiceover, the fisherman himself, with subtitles. Not a word about Phillips until the very end, when there is a mention that the lifesaving instruments used were Phillips instruments.
The power of that video is how it draws the viewer emotionally into the story, caught up in the life of the fisherman, distressed when he collapses, relieved when he is rescued.
And, appreciative of the Phillips technology that saved his life.
Medical professionals do not go through the grueling college years to get their license, did not go through the grueling internship, did not go through the grueling emergency calls to enable them to use Phillips equipment.
They go through that for one reason: to save lives. Phillips addressed that powerful emotional desire. No discussion about quality, or technical capabilities. Just communicating heart to heart.
Microsoft humanizes its company image by highlighting staff members from every department in their company – from researchers to artists to video game designers. Each individual tells his story. These in-depth profiles demonstrate that Microsoft is not just a massive corporation, but a collection of talented individuals. The heart and soul of Microsoft is not technology. It is the people who create the technology.
And people relate to people.
For over 20 years, IBM has been demonstrating the power of emotional B2B advertising through storytelling. Similarly, Phillips does not discuss the technological capabilities of its systems. Instead, it demonstrates the system’s real-life capability, using the classic problem/solution technique, showing through storytelling how its systems help everything from schools to hospitals to businesses solve their problems and achieve success.
Sales Force humanizes itself through its customers. Sales Force customers relate how Sales Force enables them to achieve their goals. Sales Force uses testimonials not just to sell itself, but, more importantly, to humanize itself.
Google put a human face on its image through its famous video, Reunion. Using video, it tells the story of a man in India telling his granddaughter about his closest childhood friend, whom he has not seen in decades. He explains that they were separated when their country split into two, India and Pakistan. Touched by her grandfather’s story, the granddaughter uses the Google search engine to trace down the friend. When the two friends meet again, the tearful reunion hits the tear ducts of every viewer. Emotion at its finest.
What unifies all of the above are the emotions that affect business decisions: Credibility. Reliability. Trust. Partnership. Relationship.
These are corporate stories told not through self-praise, not through technical gobbledygook. They are told through human stories.
Told simply, truthfully, whether through print, video or digital, they establish a human connection with your B2b target audience even before you walk into their office.
A human connection more meaningful than a thousand PowerPoint slides.
Even more powerful than your mother’s letter.
Chanina Katz has over two decades experience in major Madison Ave. ad agencies developing highly successful strategies and award-winning campaigns for such blue-chip clients as Colgate, RJ Reynolds, Hilton, Home Depot, General Mills, KFC and many others in a wide variety of package goods and services businesses. He provides marketing services for a range of businesses, from start-ups to major corporations. He lectures on marketing and creativity. He can be reached at Bullseyemarketing1@gmail.com.